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Motivational Minute:
Blessings in the Midst of Disappointments

Life is filled with disappointments – you didn’t get that job you wanted, that big project you just completed is less than perfect, you didn’t do everything you wanted to do when your kids were growing up, someone else got credit for the job you did. Yes, life is filled with disappointments, but it’s also filled with joy, wonder and, most importantly, love. You didn’t get that job you wanted, but in the time you were trying to land that job, you learned a great deal about your own passions, personality, and so many of the possibilities you had never before seen. That project isn’t perfect, but in the process of doing it, you learned a lot of lessons on how to improve your craft so that, next time, you won’t make those same mistakes again. You missed doing some of the things with and for your kids over the years, but you somehow managed to build intimate connections with them that far surpass any one thing you may have overlooked. Someone else took credit for a job you did, but nothing can steal the fulfillment and satisfaction you felt in a job well done. In front of us are two paths – one that bears disappointment and one that manifests joy. Proverbs 16:25 reads, There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Matthew 7:13-14 further illuminates this truth, as it reads, Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. The path we choose is ours to decide.

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Through Rose-Colored Lenses: Life can be a Refraction

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I was talking with a friend the other day who is in a very difficult situation that’s weighing heavily on her heart and mind. In her exasperation, she professed, “I just don’t understand why these things happen to me!” It got me thinking about life circumstances and the fact that… let’s face it – sometimes, life just deals us a bad hand. Whether it’s a financial slump, a family crisis, a social embarrassment, or a relational break-up, having the right filter and knowing how to respond and come back from these situations is what often makes or breaks us. While there may be no way to change the circumstance in which we find ourselves, there is always a way to change perspective. Renowned author, Victor Frankl, once said, The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance. In light of such sound advice, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to appropriately frame life’s circumstances, such that the lens through which we view them serves to liberate rather than shackle us.

Webster defines a lens as something that facilitates and influences perception, comprehension, or evaluation. In optometry, there are two types of lenses – positive and negative. Because a negative lens does not bring parallel light rays together, it produces a virtual rather than a real image. A positive lens, however, which bends light to a specific focal point, produces a real image; one that visually represents what is actually being viewed. To obtain the real image of our circumstance, the positive lens through which we view it might include the following:

Look through others’ eyes… Often, when we’re in the middle of something, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture, to recognize all the elements surrounding our individual circumstance. For this reason, it can be helpful to confide in someone you trust. Sometimes all we need is the wisdom of counsel to help us gain perspective.

Envision change… Picture yourself differently within the situation. Just as a prism can refract light to create a rainbow, it’s possible for us to approach our situation in such a way that we begin to see facets of it we never realized were there. For example, in doing career counseling, I’ve witnessed many people approach a layoff as an opportunity to redirect their career toward something they always wanted but were never able to do.

Never wallow… Time spent in self pity is time wasted that we can never get back. When we view ourselves as victims, we plunge into a self-indulgent, negative spiral that is self-defeating and counter productive. My motto is: Any day that I’m alive and healthy is a good day!

Shift your focus… When we face negative situations, it’s only natural to ask, “Why is this happening to me?” The circumstances we face, however, may not be about us at all – my situation may be someone else’s lesson, someone else’s hardship, someone else’s heartache to overcome. For instance, think about that troubled family member who has somehow become your problem… Consider which is more difficult, the responsibility you feel or the burden they bare. It’s not all about me.

The life we experience derives from the lens through which we choose to look, be it positive or negative. While it’s true that life can send some hard knocks our way, we have the privilege of choosing freedom or bondage. As the saying goes, Circumstances don’t define us; they reveal us.

 

 

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Motivational Minute: Revive the Dream

In the play, Les Misérables, some of the lyrics to the song, I Dreamed a Dream, go like this:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving…

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame…

I had a dream my life would be…
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed

Sadly, life is filled with many rough-and-tumble moments that distract us from the childhood dreams we carry around in our heads. It’s sometimes just easier to give up and give in than it is to keep the spark alive and make the dream a reality. For some, the dream emerges at a young age and the real-life experiences crowd out the vision. For others, the dream comes later and is snuffed out by naysayers, doubters, and the negative scripts swirling around in our heads.

For those of us who dream, then get discouraged; there are things we can do that may help us keep the fire burning – keep the dream alive.

DDO at least one thing everyday that moves you one step closer to your dream. No matter how big or small, don’t let the day get away from you until you’ve accomplished this one thing.

RREMEMBER why you had the dream to begin with. Take a moment to consider all the reasons why you believed in your dream from the start. Write it down and put it somewhere visible as a reminder.

EENGAGE with only those people who believe in you and are willing to help you achieve your dream, even if all they can do is offer words of encouragement. Stay away from those who see the glass as half empty.

AASK for help. Your friends and family care about you and want to help you, but they don’t know what to do unless you tell them. Don’t get discouraged by those who can’t or won’t help, just learn from them.

MMAKE a plan to move forward. Establish goals and objectives that will help you accomplish your dreams; celebrate every success, big and small.

The power to do what you want to do is there – it’s the power of the dream. You may not be able to measure it, you may not even be able to name it, but you can realize it if you set your mind to it. Let life revive the dream you dreamed.

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go-clockTerilyn’s Motivational Minute: The Giver’s Gift – la deuxième partie

So, last night I had an opportunity to put into action the concept of spontaneous giving. We were at an art show where my son, Taylor, had entered his hyperrealist drawing of Jennifer Lawrence. After the show, we were talking with a woman about the outcome of the show and she complimented the slide I was wearing, which had a somewhat triangular shape and a mix of different colors.

It was obvious that she really liked the pendant so I asked her if she wanted it. The look on her face was one of complete shock. She remarked, “Oh no, I certainly wouldn’t take your necklace.” I said, “No, I’m serious. You can have it.” Then I removed it from the chain and handed it to her.

This is the second time I have spontaneously given a piece of jewelry to a woman who complimented me on it. The first time was a few months back after my annual physical; I gave the slide to my family physician when she commented that it was exactly what she needed to see that day – it was a maroon square with a butterfly image embedded inside the stone. For reasons I didn’t understand, the butterfly had significant meaning to her.

In both of these instances, I immediately wondered if I would regret this act of giving – after all, it wasn’t something I had planned ahead of time and I don’t have duplicates of either slide. But… after just seconds, I knew it was the right thing to do. I didn’t wear either piece that often and, for both of these women, the slide seemed to really inspire them.

Before I left the show, the woman asked if she could hug me and she expressed immense surprise and gratitude for the gift she had been given. I left there feeling as if I had made a contribution to her life that she would remember. And, just maybe, I set an example that she might follow when the opportunity presents itself in her own life.

There’s no greater time than the present to share with others the blessings you’ve been given. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

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Terilyn’s Motivational Minute: The Giver’s Gift

Years ago, on one of our Christmas ski vacations; we went to Gunstock, a New Hampshire ski resort. It was the first and only time we have ever been night skiing, which made it a very memorable experience.

What made it even more memorable for me was what happened when we took a break to get something to eat. The eatery at the lodge only accepted cash, which I never carry. So, I inquired as to where I could find an ATM machine so I could go get the cash we needed for dinner.

The cashier gave me directions to a place on site that had an ATM, but before I could make it out the door, a woman stopped me and handed me $30. I told her I appreciated her offer, but I had the money; I just needed to get it from the ATM. She insisted that I take it.

Reluctantly, I accepted her offer and, after going through the line, I had $11 left over, which I attempted to return to her; an offer she refused. She told me to keep it and get the family dessert.

I got an opportunity to talk with this woman for a few minutes and found out that she was there with her teenage kids who she hadn’t seen in some time because they lived with their father. The ski trip was something she did annually with them, though she indicated it had been a couple of years since they had been together.

She explained to me that, each day, she finds an individual with whom she can share the blessings she has received in life. She said sometimes she gives money, sometimes she pays for a person’s meal, sometimes she takes care of the toll for one or more people behind her, etc. But, she won’t close out her day until she has found that opportunity to give.

I was extremely moved by this kind woman’s gesture and felt honored to meet someone with such a giving heart. Her example was a reminder to me that we can never give too much. The principle of reaping what you sow will always ensure that the rewards reaped will be far greater than the gifts given.

This woman’s kindness pointed me toward the giver of all things good in the person of Jesus Christ. Luke 6:38 gives us sound advice on giving: Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Regardless of how little or how much we have been given, we can find ways to bless others. Whether it’s as simple as helping an elderly person get to their table or as substantive as offering money to a stranger, there is no better time than now to give.

Tolerating the Intolerable: America at its Worst

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Over the past two decades, the idea of tolerance has emerged as a huge topic of discussion. There is a tremendous push, socially and culturally, to ensure that people display tolerance toward those who are different than they, in action, in belief, in thought and in practice. The apparent intent is to create an environment in which all people feel accepted, valued and respected regardless of religion, race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, political affiliation, etc.

An established definition of tolerance, according to Webster, is a sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own. An understanding of the concept of indulgence suggests that, as a culture, we should be willing to allow other ideas and viewpoints to be in our midst even if we completely disagree with them.

Unfortunately, the concept of tolerance is being used as a way to exclude any ideas that don’t fit with mainstream norms as identified by sanctioned media outlets. Instead of practicing tolerance as a willingness to accept the existence of differing viewpoints, it is being used as a means by which to denigrate anyone who doesn’t agree with your perspective.

In American culture, this interpretation of tolerance is undermining the principles upon which our nation was founded. For example, if you disagree with an atheist’s viewpoint, you’re intolerant; if you disagree with Sharia Law, you’re intolerant; if you disagree with those who are to the left of the political spectrum, you’re intolerant; if you don’t embrace illegal immigrants (now referred to as undocumented), you’re intolerant; if you don’t believe in gay marriage, you’re intolerant… Thus, the concept of tolerance means that we must agree with those who have beliefs different from our own.

Tolerance appears to extend to every group in America, with a couple of exceptions… Christians and conservatives. In this nation, we are encouraged to disavow Christianity. Perhaps one of the most powerful responses to this intolerance came from Jody McLoud, principal of Roane County High School in Kingston, Tennessee. In the year 2000, he was told it was no longer legal to pray on the field at the beginning of football games. He explained the policy change to students via a statement he read over the PA system.

As I understand the law at this time, I can use this public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it an alternate lifestyle, and if someone is offended, that’s OK. I can use it to condone sexual promiscuity by dispensing condoms and calling it safe sex. If someone is offended, that’s OK. I can even use this public facility to present the merits of killing an unborn baby as a viable means of birth control. If someone is offended, no problem. I can designate a school day as earth day and involve students in activities to religiously worship and praise the goddess, mother earth, and call it ecology. I can use literature, videos and presentations in the classroom that depict people with strong, traditional, Christian convictions as simple minded and ignorant and call it enlightenment. However, if anyone uses this facility to honor God and ask Him to bless this event with safety and good sportsmanship, Federal Case Law is violated. This appears to be at best, inconsistent and at worst, diabolical. Apparently, we are to be tolerant of everything and anyone except God and His Commandments.

The intolerance of Christianity, since then, has only escalated. For instance, Robert and Sim Gregory have been InterVarsity Christian Fellowship volunteers at Bowdoin College for almost ten years… without incident. Administration officials at the college told the Gregorys that, if they wished to continue in their current capacity, they had to sign the following non-discrimination agreement:

If someone’s participating in an organization and they are LGBTIQA [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Asexual] and they are not allowed to participate in that organization because of their sexual orientation or they cannot lead that organization because of their sexual orientation, then that’s discrimination (www.themainewire.com).

The Gregorys asked that the agreement be amended with this statement included:

Reservation of Rights to Religious Beliefs and Practices: The signature on this agreement shall not be construed to limit in any way the right of the undersigned Volunteer to hold, teach and practice his/her sincerely held Christian religious beliefs and to follow, hold, and teach the religious beliefs and practices of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the conduct of its campus ministry at Bowdoin College.

Bowdoin College administration officials rejected the amendment, stating … I’m sorry that you have decided not to agree to the College’s volunteer policy. Both the Muslim and Catholic volunteers have in fact agreed without reservation….  It is simply unacceptable to have College-recognized student organizations effectively discriminate against individuals in violation of Maine law, which protects students’ right to fully participate as members of an organization and to lead that organization regardless of one’s sexual orientation.

I find Bowdoin’s policy to be somewhat ridiculous – it’s one thing to say all people are welcome; it’s another to suggest they ought to be able to lead the organization. I don’t know of any organization that would put into leadership a person who is not 100% aligned with their mission. It would, at the least, undermine their credibility and effectiveness as an organization.

According to executive director for the Christian Civic League of Maine, Carroll Conley, this incident demonstrates yet another instance of intolerance toward people of faith.

Conservatives don’t get a pass either, particularly those who stand on the side of traditional marriage. For instance, in 2008, Brendan Eich, inventor of JavaScript and co-founder of Firefox browser, donated money to the Proposition 8 campaign in California. The proposition states: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

The contribution Eich made six years ago has now come back to haunt him; it has cost him his job as CEO of Mozilla. Half of Mozilla’s board resigned in protest of Eich’s contribution; wireless company, Credo Mobile, sent out an online petition demanding Eich either renounce his beliefs or resign; OKCupid, an online dating service, asked followers to boycott Firefox in protest of Eich’s stance on marriage, issuing this statement: Those who seek to deny love and instead embrace misery, shame and frustration are our enemies and we wish them nothing but failure.

Even though Eich has been at Mozilla for 15 years, and has never received a complaint regarding any type of bigotry, his position on a single issue, made public from six years ago, has, in effect, cost him his career.

And, due to a court ruling, the names of the 35,000+ people who donated to this same campaign are now available to the public – so even more intolerance can be meted out.

So, then, to practice tolerance based on its actual definition is to accept the existence of any and all views different from our own, allow them to be present without feeling threatened, and learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. Otherwise, we’re just acting discriminately based on our own personal opinions and hidden agendas.

But to be tolerant in the United States means you better agree with my stance or I will harass you, humiliate you, and hate you in a public way that may result in negative consequences for you. After all, those who disapprove of your faith-based or conservative perspective “wish you nothing but failure” and will do whatever they can to ensure it.

If we wish to enact true tolerance, we need only look to the example of Christ who was surrounded by people of opinions different than His own and who acted in ways He could not condone. His response was to treat them with respect and win them over to the side of truth through genuine love, compassion, and commitment to their well being.

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ImageMotivational Minute: From Fixation to Victory

Acts 1:10-11 reads, They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

It’s easy sometimes to get fixated on something to the point that it cripples you and stands in the way of productivity. We get in our minds that our lives should go in a particular direction, that there’s only one way to do something, or that things are taking longer than we think they should.

The time we spend on fretting over the fact that life isn’t bending to our every whim is time wasted. Instead of focusing our energies on ways to move forward, we complain about our circumstance, worry about what’s going to happen next, or agonize over past decisions that have brought us to this point.

It is in these instances that our character is tested and our faith is tried. And, it is in these instances we have been commanded to move forward. Discover what you can do, learn how to do it, and then make it happen.

Philippians 3:13b-14 issues this charge, …But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We can follow the example of the Men of Galilee and just stand and watch in bewilderment or we can accept the challenge God lays before us – with our eyes and hearts fixated on Him, take the first step toward victory.

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Motivational Minute: The Bark is Bigger than the Bite

We all experience events in our lives, both good and bad that can bring about great angst. Whether it’s impending surgery, a career change, the birth of a child, divorce, confrontation with a friend, or a big test, it’s human nature to get worked up and stressed about the trials we face in this life.

For some, the anxiety felt in anticipation of what lies ahead can be debilitating. For example, I have had to undergo surgery (mostly minor and outpatient) a few times in my life and, for me; going through anything medical is a tremendous stress-inducing phenomenon. Though I tend not to be a worrier, when it comes to medical procedures, I will inevitably begin thinking about what’s coming well ahead of time until it becomes the only thing I think about.

The exclusive focus on the upcoming procedure, in turn, makes it difficult to enjoy any activity regardless of how enjoyable that activity may be. In other words, the essence of life is reduced to a single instance in time that hasn’t even happened yet.

God, in His infinite wisdom, understands the capacity we have to needlessly focus on something that is in the future that may or may not turn out as we anticipate. That’s why He tells us… Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

I am certain that no one has ever changed the outcome of any event by worrying about it. And, in most instances, when the event actually does happen, it turns out that the bark is bigger than the bite. We would be better served to trust the God who’s in control and spend our time being thankful for all the blessings we have rather than stressing over a trial that’s yet to occur.

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Motivational Minute: Life is but a Mist

We’ve all heard the old adage, Youth is wasted on the young, but most don’t fully appreciate what it means until we ourselves are no longer considered young. Before I had children, I just couldn’t comprehend the true brevity of life. You wait anxiously for that next thing to happen, college graduation, marriage, childbirth, owning a home, etc. And, while in the wait zone, life in the present eludes you.

We take for granted that the sun will come up tomorrow and we will be here to see it. But we have no promise of tomorrow. James 4:13-14 reads, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

The only moment I have available to me is the one I’m living in right now. In our haste to move forward, we forego many of life’s blessings. For example, just before Christ’s crucifixion, He went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane and, as He wrestled with what He knew lay ahead of Him, He asked the disciples to, Sit here while I go over there and pray…Stay here and keep watch with me (Matthew 26:36b, 38b). But the disciples were tired and fell asleep, causing them to miss out on quality time they could have spent with their Savior and Friend before His betrayal and, subsequent, crucifixion.

Life is fleeting, moments are precious, and relationships are important. As I pontificate about days gone by, I can’t help but think of the lyrics to Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin:

Cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin’ home dad/son
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away… Right now is the most important moment in your life.

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Motivational Minute: Got Squirrels?

The advent of the Internet, while boasting many advantages, ushered in a world of distractions, especially to those of us who struggle with maintaining focus. I’m one of those people that can be in the midst of cleaning a room, run across something that piques my curiosity, become absorbed in the new interest for a couple hours, then realize I’m out of time and have barely scratched the surface of the work that needs to be done. Got squirrels?

Staying on task is difficult in the best of circumstances, but the ever enticing, all intrusive, constant presence of technology makes it all the more challenging. Even as I write this post, I find myself tempted to look at every social media outlet to which I’m connected, view a couple of YouTube videos, and catch an episode of Arrow on Netflix.

Distractions from cleaning and writing are easily overcome, but those that interfere with spiritual well being permeate the soul. As believers, we must be disciplined in our pursuit of Jesus – steering clear of anything that distracts us from the cause of Christ. We would do well to set aside a specific time that our focus is solely on spiritual things – no Internet, no television, no radio – only me and Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2a). We must ensure that our fascinations in life are vertically, rather than horizontally, focused. The more centered we are on the things of Christ, the less compelled we are to immerse ourselves in the things of this world.